"A BODY HAST THOU PREPARED ME"

In Paul's last letter to Timothy (more precisely, the last letter of which we have any record) he indicated much concern about certain false teachings which appear to have emerged even at that early date. He seemed to foresee that these would flourish all the more after his own decease then closely impending. The letter suggests that he sensed a dark foreboding of a "subsequent era" when some who had been called through his ministry would no longer tolerate sound teaching. Having their ears tickled by things more appealing to spiritually immature minds, they would turn away from the truth and follow" after myths (4:3-4).

Now here where Paul was reasserting the truth of our Lord's resurrection out from among the dead, he apparently had some important reason to emphasize also His Davidic ancestry. He was not content to remind Timothy merely that Jesus Christ had been roused from the dead; that and nothing more. In the same connection he stressed the further truth that this One was "of the seed of David."

From a different letter it appears that possibly there were some in Paul's day who falsely proclaimed even "another Jesus" (II Cor. 11:4); conceivably someone NOT "of the seed of David;" one whom they worshiped in spirit and persuaded others to acknowledge.

Thus it appears that such adversaries of Paul were opposing the truth of our Lord's resurrection by substituting a profession of someone else... or SOMETHING else; a deception Paul could best expose by appealing to the fact of our Lord's Davidic ancestry which had been well established in Hebrew prophecy and was afterward confirmed both by Matthew and Luke. In any event, there was obviously some imperative need for Paul's solemn reminder to Timothy; that the only One who had been permanently roused from among the dead had to be of David's seed and not "another Jesus." It was of paramount importance to establish both of those essential truths and to identify each with the other, especially if some were denying either or both.

Inferring here as we do, that Paul was confronted with this manner of opposition to his evangel, we can better appreciate the ominous tone of his warning to Timothy, "Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel." It was most imperative that the Scriptural record of our Lord's nativity through the lineage of David should be defended and preserved so as to establish just how and through whom He had received His earthly body.

Now all this relates directly to the subject of this paper, based on a Scripture in Hebrew prophecy which our Lord had recognized and quoted as applying to Himself alone: "A body hast Thou prepared me."

These words concerning our Lord's body appear first as a prophecy in the Psalms (39:6 LXX) and the letter to the Hebrews confirms the fulfillment (Heb. 10:5 CLNT). John represents that body as a tent or tabernacle: "The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we gazed upon His glory". (John 1:14 Rotherham).

In the letter to the Hebrews as quoted from the Psalms we read first of "Sacrifice and offering" which is repeated and amplified as "whole-burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin" (Heb. 10:6). In the same letter we are reminded that the former Mosaic rituals had required continual repetition (Rev. 10:11) during those many centuries when all offerings for sin were humanly observed only by the sacrifice of animals. Israel realized little or scarcely at all that these were types or shadows of "good things to come" or "impending good things" (Heb. 10:1). Neither did they understand that those rituals were temporary and would eventually pass away while the true Burnt-offering and. Sacrifice for sin would be once for all and require no repetition (Heb. 10:11-14).

Instead of the many bulls and goats slain year after year, when our Lord appeared in a body uniquely prepared for Him, He would supply the substance of every offering reflected in the law; the burnt-offering, the sin-offering, the trespass offering, and of course the peace offering. Each of these types was fulfilled in Him by His unreserved and voluntary submission to the Father's will; a mission He acknowledged by the vow written for Him long before: "Lo! I am arriving to do Thy will O God!" (Heb. 10:7).

To become the true Burnt-offering, He appeared not only as the type had required "a male without blemish" (Lev. 1:3) but especially as "a sacrifice to God for a fragrant odor" (Eph. 5:2). It was not the fleeting fragrance of frankincense but the pure essence of our Lord's abiding obedience, faithful unto death, and into death. The burnt-offering He brought was clothed in a body of deep humiliation as another prophet had said of Him alone: "Despised is He and shunned by men, a man of pains and knowing illness" (Isa. 53:3). Yet so very precious was the spiritual fragrance of His offering that we know it was acknowledged by a voice from heaven: "This is My Son, the Beloved, in Whom I delight" (Matt. 3: 17).

The burning zeal of our Lord consumed that offering of His, remindful of the fire on the altar which burned without ceasing until every Mosaic sacrifice was wholly consumed (Lev. 6:12). This it seems was reflected by figure in one of the Psalms: "The zeal of Thy house will be devouring Me" (Psa. 69:9; John 2:17).

Yet our Lord's earthly body had been prepared not only as a burnt-offering for an ascending sweet savor but also as a "sacrifice for sin” (SIN in the singular as distinguished from "sins and offences.”) For this we are told that “the One not knowing sin, He makes to be a sin offering for our sakes" (II Cor. 5:21) and "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh...condemns sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). It was necessary that the Sin-offering should be from an ancestry of sin's flesh, but it was a sinless Person who took on that flesh to become the Sin-offering and He himself remained "apart from sin" (Heb. 4:15) while He was made to be "a sin offering for our sakes" (II Cor. 5:21).

The sin-offering differed in the type from that of the burnt-offering. Whereas the burnt-offering was all consumed upon the altar, most of the sin-offering was burned outside the camp (Lev. 4:11-12). Thus in His role as the sin-offering our Lord was not to be offered as on Israel's sanctified altar but, like the carcass of the bullock which was carried away and burned without the camp, He was to suffer “outside the gate" (Heb. 13:12) upon the cross, there to be taunted and reproached by hostile Jews and Romans (Matt. 27:40-42). Thus it was written of Him in the Psalms: "The reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me" (Psa. 69: 9). As the Sin-offering He alone was to deal with our depravity while stricken of men and smitten of God. On that day when the sun at noon was converted into darkness our Lord was to know a bitterness no words but His own can reveal: "My God! My God! Why didst Thou forsake Me?" (Matt. 27:46-47).

The trespass offering (Lev. 5 & 6:1-7) as distinguished from the sin offering must reflect still a different virtue of redeeming grace, atonement for individual sins and offences, even as the sin offering relates to racial sin and depravity in all of Adam's children. It was Isaiah who said "He was wounded for our transgressions" (53:5). While those words must be restricted to Israel, a wider sphere of equal grace for all mankind was attested by John as well as Paul: "He is the propitiatory shelter concerned with our sins, yet not concerned with ours only, but concerned with the whole world also" (I John 2:2). "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor. 15:3).

In the body prepared for our Lord's earthly ministry He supplied also the peace offering (Lev. 3:1-7; 7:11-18; 7:29-34). This is distinguished in a different way. In the Levitical services the peace offering was an offering of thanksgiving or at times it was a vow called a freewill or voluntary offering. Seeing that this too had been fulfilled in Christ, the Apostle Paul reminds us that "He is our peace" (Eph. 2:14), a peace which was made through the Blood of the Cross (Col. 1:20). According to the law, the peace offering was the only sacrifice whereof the flesh might be eaten in part by the one who brought the offering, though only when the fat of the inwards was first removed and consumed on the altar as an ascending savor. This in its fulfillment may well suggest such spiritual communion as our Lord now shares with His body members here on earth in spiritual peace offerings of praise, thanksgiving and heart devotion. Even now we may commune with Him and He with us, mutually appropriating the fruits of His completed passion, the basis of our peace.

There are still other aspects of our Lord's ministry also reflected in the types of the law, some of which did not require the shedding of blood, therefore unlike those we have first considered. There was the meat offering (Lev. 2:1-16) and the drink offering, the first consisting of fine flour, oil and frankincense, a portion of which was burned on the altar for an ascending sweet savor. In our Lord’s ministry this may well represent His many deeds of mercy to mankind, though rendered first as a service to God, in supplying that enormous deficiency wherein man had been found wanting of the glory of God, not alone by his absence of devotion to God but also in his failure of love for mankind, the two paramount precepts on which as our Lord said "is hanging the whole law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:40). He atoned for that breach of divine law wherein man had wronged both God and mankind. This He did not by His death alone but also by His sanctified earthly life; as when He fed the multitudes, healed the sick, consoled the sorrowful and raised the dead. Though such miracles were local to the land of Israel, they served also as previews of His future glory when "the inhabitants of the world will have learned righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). His other offerings involved affliction of soul and dying on the cross where the giving of His blood was a prime factor, but meanwhile our Lord had gone about doing good in such other sacrifices where there was no shedding of blood. These were reflected as it seems in Israel's meat offerings and drink offerings wherein our Lord was "a benefactor and healer of all those tyrannized over by the Adversary" (Acts 10:38).

Thus far in this study the question has not been asked as to why or how the body of our Lord was said to be "prepared“. The fact that He as a person was ideally prepared for His mission is not all that the text denotes; faith accepts that gladly. Here our attention is especially directed to the body our Lord would receive in which to perform His earthly mission. That body, as John indicates, was to serve as a "tent" or "tabernacle" for One who had been previously in the form of God until He temporarily divested Himself' of that glory divine. The Son of God would come to earth and dwell among mankind. For that He would need an earthly body. As a Son of God who was not to have a human father, His blood would be unlike ours but His body was to be the product of a predetermined ancestral line, including especially Abraham, Judah and David; not because those forebears of His were righteous in themselves but because they were identified with a covenant of promise and also of law, the virtue of which was all of God and not of man.

Our Lord stressed the fact that He had been sent only to Israel (Matt. 15.24-25) who were called "His people" and "His own" (Matt. 1:21; John 1:11). We have in the Scriptures the names of all His ancestors on the male side. With few exceptions we have no names of His ancestors on the female side, yet among those few one at least is well known to have come from outside of Israel; namely, Ruth of the Moabites. There could have been and probably were others from the Gentiles too, but as to this we are not told. Rachab, mother of Boaz (Matthew 1:5) is sometimes taken to be the Rahab from Jericho of Joshua's time, but when we observe from the same reference that Racbab is mentioned as being only four generations senior to David, there is some reason to question if she was the one of Joshua's time, unless possibly certain intermediate generations were omitted there in Matthew. On the other hand, it is well established that our Lord's ancestors did include the beloved Ruth of Moab, daughter-in-law of Naomi from Judah. After the death of Ruth's first husband, who was the son of Naomi, Ruth became the wife of Boaz from Judah, a kinsman of Naomi, whereupon Boaz and Ruth became the parents of Obed, grandfather of David; all as verified by the book of Ruth. The Moabites from whom Ruth came were originally of Lot, a nephew of Abraham, so Ruth was at least in part a Shemite but not of Israel.

From incidents such as David's grievous sin when he took Bathsheba to be his wife by first contriving to have her husband slain in battle, we see the Scriptures ware not designed to conceal blemishes of character in our Lord's ancestors, even in the best of them, as David himself afterward confessed with deep remorse: "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest" (Psalm 51:4). Indeed, there was not then, nor ever since, any human flesh, Jew or Gentile, from which our Lord's ancestors could have been chosen to generate a heritage helpful to Him in the trials and sufferings He was destined to endure. It appears His ancestors were chosen rather to produce a body representative of a race lost in sin; "the likeness of sin's flesh" (Rom. 8:3); of the "old humanity" He would carry to the cross in the body prepared for Him. Yet even in such a body He himself remained holy and "apart from sin;" that indwelling sin inherent to all others as the consequence of Adam’s transgression. He was unlike us in the sense that He was not of Adam's blood and His spirit was divine even from the moment when the embryo of His body was vitalized at Mary's conception (Luke 1:35). In that body he learned obedience from all that He suffered (Heb. 5:8,9) and we conclude that those sufferings were intensified because of His human heritage in the body prepared for Him, but His holiness, faithfulness and filial obedience can be attributed only to His other heritage as the Son of God.

An indication that some of our Lord's ancestors from the female side would be chosen from the Gentiles appears to be foreshadowed in God's instructions to Moses for the building of the tabernacle containing the ark of the covenant. The tabernacle was covered first with rams' skins dyed red and above those was an exterior covering of badgers' skins (Ex. 26:14). From this we observe that the covering nearest the ark of the covenant was from skins of domestic animals while the outer covering was from animals of the wilds. We know that the children of Israel were frequently represented as sheep; for example, "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:6). In accord with those symbols it appears that the body of our Lord in which He would "tabernacle" among mankind was to be composed primarily of Israelitish heritage corresponding with the rams' skins dyed red, used for the inner covering of the tabernacle, but there was also the element of Gentile ancestry represented by the skins of badgers from the wilds, foreign to Israelis domestic flock, which formed the outer covering of the tabernacle; a little further removed from the ark of the covenant.

There are still other indications which show that our Lord nourished within Himself something like a latent affinity for the Gentiles; for even though He faithfully recognized Israel's favorite position as the covenant nation, there were what appeared in part like only casual events from the time of His birth which suggested some impending favor for the Gentiles. When He was yet a little boy, scarcely more than two years old, Joseph and Mary had been warned by a messenger they must take Him and flee into Egypt for temporary protection from Herod who was seeking the child to destroy His life. We are told those circumstances had been divinely prearranged to fulfill a prophecy saying "Out of Egypt I call my Son" (Matt. 2:15).

Our Lord's home town of Nazareth and the city of Capernaum where He afterward lived were in a region called "Galilee of the Gentiles," and that too was in fulfillment of prophecy (Isa. 9:1; Matt. 4:15). Capernaum was situated in the land allotted to Naphtali, a son of Jacob born from Rachel's handmaid Bilhah, a woman of unrevealed ancestry but evidently not of Hebrew descent (Gen. 30:7, 8; 35:25). Since our Lord came from the tribe of Judah, He was not of her lineage but the land of Bilhah’s son Naphtali where Capernaum lay was peculiarly identified in Scripture as Galilee of the Gentiles, and it seems there was where our Lord preferred to live.

On a later occasion when He had been witnessing in Judea where certain Jews were seeking to kill Him before the time, He set out for return to Galilee and must then of necessity go through Samaria, another country He loved and favored. It was from that region He chose for a certain role in one of His parables the familiar character of “the good Samaritan” while in the same parable He placed the priests and Levites of Israel in a less commendable light (Luke 10:30-35).

When He journeyed farther north beyond the boundaries of His native land into the region of Tyre and Sidon where a Canaanitish woman there pleaded with Him to heal her demonized daughter, though of course she was not of Israel, our Lord at length commended her for her remarkable faith and acceded to her pleading by healing her daughter as she had begged Him to do (Matt. 15:21-28). On another occasion He healed the servant of a Gentile centurion in Capernaum, saying He had not found such faith as his anywhere in Israel (Matt. 8:5-12).

Though He honored Abraham, He told those among the Jews who were seeking to kill Him that they were not doing the works of Abraham, thus exposing the fact that their lives were not consistent with Abraham's faith, especially when they sought to kill Him while He was only telling them the truth (John 8:33-40).

That, of course, did not at all reflect on others in Israel who acknowledged and received our Lord as the One sent of God in accord with Hebrew prophecy. We are reminded that there is no partiality with God which we take to mean irrespective of any race or color (Rom. 2:11, Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). All in Christ are known as a new creation (II Cor. 5:17) wherein every former distinction such as Jew, Gentile, slave or free has forever passed away, to be superseded now by an all-embracing spiritual unity of God in Christ—and Christ in all His own.

Melvin E. Johnson (Treasures of Truth, Instalment Fifteen, November-December 1974)